INSHAPE NEWS OPINION:
Anthony “Chief” Ippindo – Director of Holistic Fitness Australia at Fox Studios:
We often get questions about the best abs exercises. After all, who doesn’t want to tone their Abs in the least amount of time?
There are DVDs with countless exercises that target the abs, and even fitness equipment which specifically target the abs. Does the ‘Ab Swing Pro’ or ‘Jake’s Ab Blaster’ ring a bell? You often see them on infomercials that promote weight loss and ways to tighten your abs by using this one piece of equipment. But do you need a video or specialised piece of equipment to get the abs of your dreams?
A study conducted at the San Diego State University’s Biomechanics Lab and published by ACE, the American Council on Exercise, says no. Their research revealed that the best exercises for your abs don’t require any gizmos, and are surprisingly easy to fit into your day. Researchers looked at the effectiveness of 13 common abdominal exercises, everything from crunches to the “Ab Roller” machine.
Using electromyography (EMG), researchers measured the muscle activity of the participants to determine which exercises best targeted the abs and the obliques, while also limiting the activity of the hips and thighs (because when an abdominal exercise is executed poorly, the hips and thighs engage to “help out” the abs).
Overall, researchers said that all of these exercises are “relatively effective” ways to train the abs, but some are more effective than others. Abdominals are a muscle group like no other, that is besides calves, in that they can be worked to exhaustion every day and still not be overtrained.
I work an abdominal routine in at the end of every workout for 10 to 15 minutes straight. I usually pick anywhere from three to five exercises, each, of which, targets a different part of the abdominal core. Then I run through as many circuits as I can in the allotted 10 to 15 minutes, often targeting for four to 5 circuits. Each circuit will consist of one set of 30 to 40 reps, or to failure for a particular exercise, before moving to the next exercise. These exercises are performed with no rest period for the entire circuit, just a travel time rest between exercises.
In essence, you are doing four to five sets per exercise to failure or 30 to 40 reps, depending on the exercise. This type of format, I believe, is the best form of ab workouts, as it targets the whole abdominal system, rather than one specific area. It doesn’t matter which ab exercises are the best, but the mix of all different types of exercises, performed to failure, will get you some good results.
In closing, here is a list of my five favourite ab exercises. These make my abs sore for up to three days after my workout:
1. Hanging knee Raises
2. Weighted Swiss ball crunch
3. Cable wood chops
4. Medicine ball twists
5. Max. Plank hold.
All the best in health.
Anthony “Chief” Ippindo is a dedicated fitness professional, who is an AFL football player and physical conditioning coach that has a career spanning over 10 years. Anthony has a Bachelors in Sports Science and is a qualified strength and conditioning coach, which has enabled him to work with elite athletes from AFL football, hockey and tennis to rowing and high performance diving at the South Australian Institute Of Sport. In addition, Anthony has also studied a holistic approach to exercise under Paul Chek to become a qualified exercise coach and a level II holistic lifestyle coach. This has enabled him to move forward from personal training to become a holistic lifestyle coach.
Ali Cavill – Fitness Fashionista:
There are a number of effective exercises that allow you to maintain a tight belly and flat stomach. These include a wide range of crunch exercises such as the reverse crunch, bicycle crunch, vertical leg crunch and full sit up. These exercises target all the major muscles of the core including the rectus abdominis or the ‘six pack’, obliques, transverse abdominis and the lower back. However, ab busting exercises to get that much-sought after six pack need not just involve crunches. There are a number of exercises that will work your obliques, transverse abdominus and core that are simple and easy and ideal for the ‘at home’ work out.
My favourite exercise, the plank, works the transverse abdominis and can be done in the privacy of your own home. This isometric abdominal exercise stabilises your spine whilst strengthening your core. The plank is achieved by lying on your stomach, keeping your legs straight and rising up onto your forearms and toes. Hips should be raised to shoulder height and the back should be flat. Squeeze your abs and tighten your glutes. Hold yourself in this position for 30 to 60 seconds without moving, while you breath in and out. Work up to three sets.
Dumbbell oblique lifts are an excellent crunch-free exercise to work the oblique abdominal muscles and are straight forward exercises requiring only a set of 1 kg dumbbells. To perform these exercises stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms relaxed at your sides. Lean to the right allowing your right hand to trace down the side of your leg. Stand back up straight pulling with your muscles at the side of your waist and not lifting with your arm. Lean to the left. Continue alternating sides. Four to eight reps on each side are ideal.
And let’s not forget the ‘sneaky’ abs exercise’s we can do while driving, sitting at our desk or lying in bed – simply tighten and release your abs repeatedly. This little move yields results almost without your noticing. That’s until summer hits of course, and then you can put your fantastic bikini body on show.
A successful personal trainer and owner of Fit Fantastic, Ali is also a popular group fitness instructor and an accomplished consultant, writer and speaker on fitness and health topics within the community. As Rockwear Ambassador and ‘superstar’ for the Australian Institute of Fitness, Ali is spreading her energy across the country by mentoring upcoming fitness professionals and making appearances at schools, charity and community events. In her spare time, Ali acts. She has appeared in the Australian Institute of Fitness National ad campaign as well as Home & Away, Biggest Loser, The Circle, Great Gatsby and other productions. Ali is also tertiary trained as an HR Manager, having held such positions within NSW Government.
Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer:
This is a favourite topic of mine, as it is one that is so misunderstood and definitely abused.
People are obsessed with abs. You can find heaps of exercise books promising to flatten your abs, not to mention all the TV infomercials selling hundreds of abdominal gimmicks guaranteeing “rock-hard” abs and every fitness magazine available has a monthly article focusing on ab training. There is just an overload of abdominal training information, no wonder people are confused and not sure where to start.
The first thing to get clear is that you cannot spot reduce, and abdominal training won’t give you the ripped ab appearance. The key to great abs in appearance is 95 percent nutrition and a good functional weight training program.
Everyone has a ripped abdominal section, but some of us have a layer of fat covering it, and this is why you can’t see it. Having said that, you can also have great looking abs, but you may have very dysfunctional abdominals that don’t perform the tasks they are meant to and this can then lead to injury and postural problems.
You must have an assessment approach to choosing your exercises. This means that there is no one workout for everyone, just the best one for you. Also training your abdominals too much can be a very bad thing. I found this out first-hand 7 years ago whilst completing my Pilates certification. In order to get my certification I had to complete 40+ hours of participation in classes. During this process I ended up suffering from Osteitis Pubis and several hamstring tears. In addition, I also tore my oblique muscles twice whilst playing basketball at A Grade level, which I had been playing for over 20 years.
I had more injuries in one year than I had for my whole life. These were all postural related, which is ironic considering Pilates claims to be about postural correction. Now, I am not bagging the Pilates method here, but I had many doubts about their methods. For example, if my posture was unique to me and different to many in the class (I have a flat back), then why was I doing the same exercises?
This lead me to the CHEK method, which is what I use today. I have experienced great results with my own physical fitness and with my clients. I have never torn my abdominals or hamstrings since and the Osteitis has never come back.
Funnily enough the best type of abdominal training for me is stretching my abs and working my erector spinae muscles. I need to complete these movements while standing up in good posture. I can still complete a set of 10 hanging leg raises today, even though I have not done them for years, as my posture is prepared to do it. This also means I should not do perform this movement as it could possibly make my back muscles weaker.
Out of all the people I train with, there is not many that can even do one leg raise correctly, let alone ten. So, in their cases, they should be learning how to do hanging leg raises, but through the correct progressions.
Based on this, my method for choosing abdominal exercises is a series of tests. If you fail the test, the test becomes your exercise. If you pass the test, you move on to the next exercise in the progression.
The following list is the tests that I use on my clients. I won’t list how to do each of the exercises, because I just don’t have enough room on the page, but I will name them in order of progression.
1. Breathing Test
2. TVA abdominal testing with a blood pressure cuff
3. Lower abdominal bent knee. I find 9/10 people fail this test. Please find the instructions for this at the bottom of this list.
4. Oblique test on a Swiss ball
5. Back extension test
6. Lower abdominal straight Leg
7. Swiss ball crunch with neck extension
8. Cable woodchop
9. Hanging leg raises
Exercise Number 1
Lower abdominal bent knee test
Lying on your back with your hand placed underneath your low back at belly button level.
1. Bend your knees to 45° raise both legs in the air keeping the knee bent. Slightly rotate your pelvis backwards which will flatten your low back. Do this until you feel a light pressure on your hand.
2. Lower the legs back to the floor maintaining the pressure on the hand. The pressure on your hand should not vary greatly during the exercises.
If you want to find out how to do the other exercises, simply Google them, and then follow the instructions. Just remember that it is not just doing the exercise, it is doing the exercise correctly that improves your physical aptitude.
Disclaimer: The information published in this column are based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinon is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.
Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called NO Regrets Personal Training.
Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.